(Reuters) – A Venezuelan oil tanker is returning to Venezuela from Syria with a cargo of naphtha, shipping records showed on Thursday, after delivering badly needed diesel early this week as Western sanctions, causing severe shortages, hurt Syria’s economy.
The tanker loaded a cargo of naphtha, a refined petroleum product that can be used to make petrol, from the Syrian port of Banias. Satellite tracking data shows the vessel is due to reach Amuay in Venezuela on June 12.
The Negra Hipolita is the third vessel to deliver diesel to Syria from Venezuela, while a fourth shipment is being prepared, Syria’s state news agency said on Wednesday.
Venezuela angered Washington last year by supplying fuel to Iran, which is also subject to Western sanctions on fuel supplies.
The EU has taken steps to prevent firms from delivering diesel to Syria as it can be used to fuel heavy vehicles, including army tanks. Thousands of people have been killed in Syria during a year-long revolt against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule, a conflict in which the military’s use of heavy vehicles has been prominent.
Despite its chronic shortage of diesel, Syria has long had the appropriate refining capacity to be an exporter of naphtha.
Tighter EU sanctions introduced late in March made it more difficult for firms to deliver diesel to Syria without breaking the law, and imports of diesel have since ground to a near halt.
The standstill has exacerbated the pain felt by ordinary Syrians who have been grappling with shortages for months and particularly hurt those in agriculture who rely on heavy machinery for their livelihoods.
The scarcity of fuel is so severe farmers are resorting to using horses and mules, which is leading to huge increases in crop prices and affecting people across the country, according to non-governmental organization Avaaz.
On Wednesday, Syrian officials said discussions were under way to secure materials from Algeria and Iran.